Bo Jackson’s tenure as a pro athlete was brief. The 1985 Heisman Trophy winner was both an MLB All-Star and NFL Pro Bowler, but his football career lasted just 38 games before a bum hip took him from the gridiron and seriously impacted his abilities on the base paths. Jackson’s candle burned bright, but was ultimately snuffed out before he could capitalize on his potential as an all-time great.
But his legend will live on forever, thanks in part to Tecmo.
The Japanese video game maker made Jackson an unstoppable force for the Los Angeles Raiders in its 1987 game Tecmo Bowl, then turned him into the kind of monster digital sprites still see in their 8-bit nightmares in 1991’s Super Tecmo Bowl. With unreal strength and speed and the ability to quickly move in any of the Nintendo D-pads four directions, Tecmo Bo became as much of a presence as the real thing. The most-watched YouTube video of actual Jackson’s NFL highlights has more than 689,000 views. A 113-second clip of him dodging digital Patriots during an eating up an entire quarter’s worth of game time on a single kick return has nearly 2.4 million:
Jackson isn’t the only player whose amazing athleticism made him an overclocked menace to virtual defenses. Several players in Tecmo Super Bowl were given superhuman traits that allowed them to garner 600 yards in a game of a dozen sacks, from stars like Barry Sanders to retired-upon-release players like Scott Studwell. Madden 2004 put Michael Vick on its cover and then made him a demi-god in its code. Eric Metcalf, with his 99 speed rating, was a screen pass game-breaker a decade earlier.
But who was the best; the player against whom the most controllers were hurled into walls and smashed into coffee tables? Which player made you whine like a child whenever your opponent simply picked his team?
Tecmo Super Bowl’s Lawrence Taylor
Jackson gets all the press, but there were plenty of game-breaking running backs in the 1991 game — Sanders and Christian Okoye foremost among them — that could create similarly insane highlights. There was only one Lawrence Taylor.
Taylor, lined up along the edge of the Giants’ 3-4 defense, was an unblockable monster as fast as any skill player on the field. Offensive linemen were duckpins in his path, tumbling backward in tragic three-act plays that always ended the same way; with video LT rising into frame of a cut scene, arms raised in triumph and celebrating his latest sack.
But while Taylor was a beast on the pass rush, his most valuable trait was making field goals an impossibility. Tecmo Super Bowl threw him into the center of New York’s special teams units, lining him up directly over the snap. All you had to do to block any kick that required a modicum of thought was hold down left or right, wait a fraction of a second, then slide right through Morten Andersen’s now extremely broken legs. If you’re facing fourth-and-long in opponent territory against the Giants, just go for it. — Christian D’Andrea
Madden 2004’s Michael Vick
It cannot be overstated just how stupidly good Vick was in Madden 2004. Even if you created players with identical stats, it still didn’t result in the kind of utter destruction sown by Vick. He was ridiculously fast, ridiculously agile, accurate enough to make any throw from any position on the field, and could run around entire defenses twice over in a single play.
It’s not JUST that Vick could run really fast — it’s that he could drop back, wait for his protection to break down, run around the silly defenders, and then either pick up a big gain on the ground or fire off an on-the-run pass that always made it to the receiver. He’d devour hundreds of yards rushing and passing every single game, especially when controlled by a human opponent.
There is a special spot in the bad place for childhood friends that refused to play as anybody but the Falcons. — James Brady
Anyone who disagrees is wrong. — Richard Johnson
Madden 2004’s Randy Moss
Everyone is familiar with Vick, but let’s not forget how godly Randy Moss was in this version either. All you had to do was run a go route with him and that’s an automatic touchdown. He was tall enough to a point where the cornerback animations didn’t even matter. If you double-teamed him, he would OUTRUN the double coverage and still be open. As soon as the other cornerback turned around, they were beaten.
Moss doesn’t get talked about much because this style of play is monotonous and not as fun as playing as Michael Vick. However, that just speaks to how much of a mismatch he is for everyone in the game. — Kofie Yeboah
Tecmo Super Bowl’s Bo Jackson
You saw the clip above, right? Bo could do that every. play. — Christian D’Andrea
Madden 2003’s Marshall Faulk
Faulk got cover duties this year, so of course he was going to be overpowered — but not by much. The Hall of Fame tailback was a few years removed from his peak by ‘03, but the game didn’t care, making him a 99 overall player who could ruin defenses either on the ground or as a receiver. No one was catching up to Faulk on a wheel route, which made the Rams unstoppable ... against the computer, at least. — Christian D’Andrea
Which NFL player has your vote as the video game GOAT?
Who is the greatest video game NFL player?
This poll is closed
Tecmo Super Bowl Lawrence Taylor
Madden 2004 Michael Vick
Madden 2004 Randy Moss
Tecmo Super Bowl Bo Jackson
Madden 2003 Marshall Faulk